Imagine for a moment a community that has such efficient mass transit connecting your home, office and important locations in your city, that you could eliminate a car from your life, save money, reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health.
Imagine kissing your family goodbye in the morning, walking out your front door and then just a few short blocks to a specialized kiosk. Here you swipe an I.D. card that logs you into a system and unlocks a commuter bicycle, complete with cargo basket, fenders and light system. You ride the bike 15 minutes to another kiosk, this one at a Metro station and swipe your card again, this time locking the bike and logging you out of the system. You hop on the Metro rail to your stop, walk a couple of blocks to your office, where you arrive fresher and more alert because you’ve avoided the stress of traffic and parking, and received a little exercise in the process. At the end of the day you reverse the route.
Imagine that at the end of the day, you feel much better about yourself. You’ve put in your 30 minutes of daily exercise, caught up on email and the news on the train before and after work, giving you more time with your family, and you’ve done your part to improve the quality of life in your community.
Futuristic? Hardly. Denver, Colo., has such a system currently in place. And it’s working beautifully. In addition to an efficient mass transit system, the city also has a sophisticated bike-sharing program in place.
The non-profit organization, Denver Bike Sharing (denverbikesharing.org), has owned and operated the B-cycle bike-sharing system for two years. Although community bike programs are fairly common in Europe, Denver Bike Sharing (DBS) was the first of its kind in the United States. And it has been a success. According to Tyler Reeder of DBS, in 2010, there were more than 30,000 users making more than 102,000 trips equaling 211,000 miles ridden, eliminating some 312,000 pounds of emissions.
Not bad, especially when you consider that the average commuter spends 50 hours every year stuck in traffic, but instead could lose up to 13 pounds in the first year of a commute by bike.
And here’s the best part, paid for by grants, membership fees and advertising (on the bikes) the system doesn’t cost Denver taxpayers anything. In fact, due largely to increased productivity (less absenteeism, healthier workforce), cycling in Denver actually adds $1 billion each year to Denver’s economy.
The system, including the bikes, kiosks and software, are manufactured by Trek, in conjunction with Humana and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The sophisticated system operates on 3G technology, includes GPS tracking systems and allows for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly memberships, ranging from $5 – $65.
With bike-sharing programs in place in Denver, Chicago, Des Moines, Louisville, San Antonio and Hawaii, could Culver City be next? Most definitely – especially as part of a larger network, connecting with, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, for example. According to Reeder, linking communities is a big goal of the program. In its case, Denver and Boulder are linked.
When asked his thoughts on a bike-sharing program here, Culver City councilmember Andrew Weissman says he is a big supporter of biking programs. “Transportation issues are regional and certainly not confined only to Culver City streets, and I would be supportive of a Westside approach,” he said.
How would this add value to our community? Weissman adds, “Very simplistically, being able to get to and from work, school, shopping, etc., safely, timely and efficiently, without having to use an automobile improves the quality of life of drivers and non-drivers alike.”
How much will the quality of life improve? According to figures calculated from B-cycles’ Web site, bcycle.com, if just 10% of residents used a bike-sharing program, Culver City could reduce traffic by 4,412 cars, eliminate 68 tons of emissions and save almost 7,000 gallons of gas. Additionally, residents would burn more than 6 million calories, resulting in nearly 1,900 pounds lost. All of this would save the city $103,687 annually (Los Angeles, by comparison, could save more than 3,000 tons of emissions and $1 million).
Of course, having bike infrastructure is an important element. Now that the Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan is approved, the building blocks are in place. Creating a bike-sharing program linking downtown Culver City to the Expo Line, the Westfield mall, the Helms Bakery Building, Westwood and Rancho Park, for example, would be a huge benefit to businesses and residents alike. It would also create a collaborative community all working toward safer and healthier lifestyles.
Now that is biking smart!
Bike Safe, Bike Smart! is a weekly column to promote responsible cycling by providing information, education and advice about riding. It’s written by members of the Culver City Bicycle Coalition (CCBC), a local chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Join them for their family bike ride, the last Sunday of every month. For more information and to submit your questions, write email@example.com and visit their blog: culvercitybc.wordpress.com/.